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Deputy Secretary of Defense, Dr. Ashton B. Carter; TV Stakeout, New Delhi - India

September 18, 2013

Dr. Carter: Good afternoon. Thanks for being here today.

I’m delighted to be here in India on the third leg of a trip that took me to Afghanistan and Pakistan before coming here, and it’s especially important to be here because the United States and India are two countries that are destined to be partners on the world stage. We share common interests, but more fundamentally, common values, common outlooks on issues ranging from defense trade to counter-terrorism to maritime security and many others.

The importance of this relationship is signified by Prime Minister Singh’s upcoming visit to President Obama in the United States. President Obama has called the U.S.-India relationship a defining partnership of the 21st Century. Defense relations are a key part of that defining partnership. Secretary of Defense Hagel and I and the entire defense team of the United States are committed to this partnership and that’s the reason for my visit.

Deepening this relationship with India also reflects the U.S. so-called rebalance to the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. Building on a rapid transformation of our defense relationship over the past decade, the U.S. is becoming a significant provider of equipment and technology to India’s military modernization efforts. We want India to have all the capabilities it needs to meet its security needs and we want to be a key partner in that effort.

Just this morning I received an excellent briefing from the Indian Air Force at Hindon Air Station on the role of C-130s and C-17s in India’s strategic airlift planning. I heard about how the Indian Air Force used C-130s in recent food relief efforts in the north and I actually had the privilege of meeting the Indian Air Force pilot who landed the C-130J above 16,000 feet in the Himalayas, a very impressive feat that’s made the press all over the world.

In our so-called Defense Trade and Technology Initiative, or DTI, we’re trying to move to more co-production projects like the C-130J in which defense products are made not just in the United States and sold to India, but manufactured in both countries. And not just manufactured but developed, the research and development occurring cooperatively between the two countries. That’s a new and much deeper form of partnership.

Defense trade of that new kind is an important element of a broader and multi-faceted relationship that also includes joint exercises between our two militaries, discussions of regional security, trilateral discussions with nations like Japan, where the three of us talk about our regional security postures, and trilateral interactions with India, the United States and multilateral organizations.

So we are in this for the long term but we’re acting in the short term. Those actions are to promote them, and for my visit.

Media (NDTV/Nitin Gokhle): There is a feeling in China that the United States, Japan and India are trying to gang up against China and trying to contain China. The rebalance is also towards that. What’s your take on that?

Dr. Carter: The rebalance is not about China and it’s not oriented against China. Nobody wants a competition or an arms race or certainly not a conflict in the Asia Pacific Indian Ocean region involving China or anyone else. This is a region that has enjoyed peace and security for many decades now. Even though the wounds of World War II were never healed, there was no structure like NATO to guarantee security. And one of the reasons for that peace and stability has been the pivotal role of U.S. military power. And as the war in Iraq ended and the war in Afghanistan is winding down, the United States is reorienting towards that historic role. When you think about it, that role has created peace and stability that permitted first Japan’s rise in prosperity, and then Korea’s rise in prosperity, then Southeast Asia, and now China and India’s rise in prosperity. We welcome all that. But it takes peace and stability for that economic and political development to take place. That’s what we want, to keep on our historical role in this region. That’s what the rebalance is about.

Media (Times Now/Geeta Mohan): Geeta Mohan from Times Now.

I just wanted to know, is U.S. still pushing for CISMOA and the Logistical Support Agreement (LSA)? Also if the Rafael does not work out, will U.S. then look at offering F-22s?

Dr. Carter: With respect to the first, for those of you who don’t know that these agreements are, these are agreements that under U.S. law enable U.S. entities to cooperate with foreign partners, including India.

India has not signed those agreements yet, but notwithstanding that, we have decided to work around that. So we’re now able to do the things we want to do with India, even though it hasn’t signed those agreements. We’d like them to sign them but we’re not allowing that to remain an obstacle.

With respect to defense sales to India, that depends on Indian requirements. They have not asked for the F-22. Obviously it’s up to the Indian defense system to define its own requirements.

Media (Headlines Today/Maha Siddiqui): Maha Siddiqui from Headlines Today.

I wanted to know what your assessment of the region is as the U.S. moves out of Afghanistan. India has certain concerns with regard to its own assets in Afghanistan. What is the kind of assessment you have at the moment?

Dr. Carter: First of all, India has been an important contributor to stability in Afghanistan. You have a humanitarian role, an economic assistance role which is incredibly important. That’s the key in Afghanistan is to get people there back to the job of economic/political development. And you’re right, Afghanistan[sic], or India like the United States, like Pakistan and other countries in the region has a stake in Afghanistan’s succeeding in owning a place that is secure within its own borders. That’s why we should all be working to help the Afghan government and economy to succeed and to be able to by itself take care of insurgents within it. That’s the purpose of the so-called campaign.

The campaign jointly between Afghanistan and NATO and other coalition forces was, in my professional assessment, very successful on the battlefield this summer. The insurgency is being beaten and it’s being beaten by a force where the Afghans are in the lead. They’re taking heavy losses, but that’s because they’re doing all the combat this season. ISAF is not. The United States does not do any independent operations in Afghanistan. They’re all done with Afghans and led by the Afghans.

I’ve been working on this conflict now for several years and I never would have confidently predicted how well the Afghan troops are doing. So militarily, things are going great in Afghanistan.

Now we need there to be a successful political transition in Afghanistan. They have elections next year. We look forward to continuing to play our role in Afghanistan after the Government of Afghanistan signs a Bilateral Security Agreement which allows us to remain in the country.

Thank you once again.